New York City medical residents who were out on research for the year are being reassigned from their research jobs …. to more research. Despite having spent all of last year managing ICU patients, a PGY-3 resident in New York City, received notice his reassignment will involve consenting COVID-19 patients for research – and not utilize any of his skills as an MD, let alone his skills managing ICU patients. There was no explanation given for this misappropriation of resources. Now, he’s forced to choose whether exposing himself to COVID-19 patients doing unskilled work is worth it to keep his job. Or should he be risking his future career by seeking out a new position where he can actually use his skills and be more useful? If he is fired for refusing reassignment, unemployment benefits are currently more than he makes a week as a researcher, so he could be free to volunteer his ICU skills where they’re desperately needed.
After asking for time to consider, the job he was offered for reassignment was given to a recent college graduate without an MD. Maybe the hospital can’t offer him a job as an MD, given his compensation is half of what he’d make as a medical resident. Maybe reassignments can only be lateral moves and not vertical. Maybe they’re just planning poorly. The executive order No. 202.10 by Governer Cuomo allows foreign medical graduates to provide patient care in hospitals, but has left out domestic medical graduates who are not licensed but have one or more year of graduate medical education, which would include those out on leave for research (or other reasons).
Considering their skill sets, which are rapidly becoming more needed, their familiarity with the hospitals, and the hospitals’ systems, you would hope someone would tackle these reassignments more effectively – pushing for the necessary permissions from the state and securing the necessary funding to shift compensation as needed to avoid extorting the returning residents.
Instead of exposing these residents to COVID-19 now by assigning them jobs that don’t require an MD, we should at least be reserving them for the next wave of physicians after the firsts fall. Anything else seems short-sighted and irresponsible.
Genevieve Cody is a medical student.
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